Canada's Investment in Micronutrient Initiative Will Sustain Life-Saving Nutrition Programs Around the World

DAKAR, SENEGAL--(Marketwired - November 30, 2014) - Canada reinforced its commitment to saving and improving lives for women and children around the world today when Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced a renewed investment of $150 million for the Micronutrient Initiative at a community health post in Bargny, Senegal.

At this rural health post, the Prime Minister administered Canada's 8 billionth vitamin A capsule to four-year-old Fatou Saw Mbaye. With support from Canada, the Micronutrient Initiative (MI) has procured the bulk of the world's supply of vitamin A capsules for children in need. Vitamin A improves health, averts blindness, and has contributed to saving 4 million children's lives around the world since 1998. Thanks to Canadians, Fatou is getting the healthy start she needs and deserves.

"This investment in MI is another example of Canada's generosity and commitment to women and children in need around the world and its exceptional and acknowledged global leadership on nutrition," said MI President Joel Spicer. "Among other critical interventions, it will allow us to continue to provide life-saving vitamin A capsules to young children like Fatou, which will save up to one million lives over the next five years."

Today's announcement, made at the conclusion of La Francophonie Summit, provides ongoing support to MI's range of nutrition-focused programming around the world. MI works to ensure that the world's most vulnerable -- especially women and children -- in developing countries get the vitamins and minerals they need to survive and thrive. MI is a 'made-in-Canada' development organization with global reach, working with governments and partners to improve the lives of 500 million people every year in more than 70 countries.

"The high-impact, low-cost nutrition interventions that Canada champions through MI are improving the lives of millions of women and children around the world," said Minister of International Development and Minister for La Francophonie Christian Paradis, who was also at the health post. "Our government's support for MI is an investment in families, in communities, and in the next generation."

The funds will be used to sustain MI's global nutrition programs, including improving maternal health through iron and folic acid supplementation; reducing child deaths from diarrhoea with treatment using zinc and oral rehydration salts; preventing mental impairment through iodization of salt; and improving health and saving lives with vitamin A. In addition, MI's work strengthens national health and food systems to ensure that nutrition programming is high-impact, supported and sustained.

The need for action is great. Currently, 6.3 million children still die before their fifth birthday from preventable causes, such as malaria, diarrhoea and pneumonia. Undernutrition is an underlying cause of 45 percent of these deaths. MI's vitamin A program, supported by Canada, ensures that young children get vitamin A to boost the immune system, so their bodies can fight off diseases and death.

Since 1992, the Canadian government has partnered with MI to address nutritional needs among the approximately 2 billion people who suffer from micronutrient deficiencies around the world. Since then, Canada has been acknowledged as a global leader on supporting maternal, newborn and child health. This leadership was recently reinforced at a global Summit in Toronto in May, Saving Every Woman, Every Child, where Canada pledged $3.5 billion dollars to improve the health of women, newborns and children. Accelerating efforts to address under-nutrition is one of the three identified paths in Canada's strategy to end preventable deaths.

Fatou Saw Mbaye is just one of the millions of children around the world who are benefitting from Canada's commitment to improving the health of vulnerable women and children around the world.


Canada's $150 million investment in the Micronutrient Initiative

Thanks to Canada's investment in MI ($150 million) over the next five years, Canadians will help to ensure:

  • Up to one million deaths averted. At least 150 million children under-five reached with two doses of vitamin A every year.
  • 3.4 million pregnant women reached with iron and folic acid supplements, which will improve the health of mothers and their newborns.
  • 13 million children with diarrhoea, a leading cause of child deaths, will receive zinc and oral rehydration salts (ORS), an intervention that reduces severity and incidence of diarrhoea -- and saves lives. The investment in zinc and ORS (roughly $11 million) will augment results achieved via the Zinc Alliance on Child Health, an MI, Teck and Government of Canada partnership launched in 2011 to scale up zinc and ORS in countries in Africa and Asia.
  • 120 million people reached with iodized salt and more than 500,000 babies protected from mental impairment. MI will work with business, governments and others to catalyze the production of 2.5 million metric tonnes of iodized salt. In addition to the health benefits, these initiatives involve robust partnerships with small and medium sized private sector actors focussed on improving business models and boosting economic dividends.
  • Support from the Government of Canada will also contribute to MI's efforts to strengthen health systems, support governments in efforts to accelerate scale up, leverage government and partner investments, and prioritize sustainable, long term solutions to generate impact.

Canada's leadership on life-saving vitamin A and the "8 billionth" capsule

Thanks to Canadian support, MI procures the bulk of the global supply of vitamin A and, with partners like UNICEF and others, ensures that it is delivered and distributed to at least 150 million children every year in roughly 70 countries around the world. 

  • Vitamin A deficiency weakens children's immune systems and makes them more susceptible to disease, illness and blindness, and affects close to 200 million young children around the world. But when we get vitamin A to children who need it, it can provide the extra boost kids need to ward off disease or illness, so they can survive and thrive.
  • Children need only two of these capsules a year to boost their immune system to help fight off deadly diseases. And each capsule costs only two cents to manufacture. Most of these capsules have been manufactured in Canada.
  • Thanks to Canadian support, since 1998, the Micronutrient Initiative has procured 8 billion vitamin A capsules for distribution around the world. As a result, 4 million lives have been saved. Also, 1.5 million children have been protected from nutritional blindness.
  • Of these, 2 billion capsules have been procured for Francophonie countries -- enough to support the needs of 50 million kids every year.

Fatou Saw Mbaye: the girl who received the 8 billionth vitamin A capsule

Four-year-old Fatou Saw Mbaye may not know why there is so much attention on her at this moment. She's as special as any other little girl or boy in her community who has come to the Kip Carriere health post in Bargny, Senegal to receive her bi-annual dose of vitamin A. This is something she's received twice a year since she was six-months of age. This vitamin A capsule will boost her immune system and improve her health.

The youngest of five children in her family, Fatou has started school and loves to play with toys. Her mother, Awa Konate, tells us that her daughter is in good health because of vitamin A, and also the other health services and nutritional supports she receives at the health post.

Ibra Gueye: Head Nurse at the Kip Carriere Health Post

Ibra Gueye takes great pride in his role as the Head Nurse at the Kip Carriere Health Post in Bargny, Senegal. He was born and grew up here and in 2003 he took charge of this bustling health post. He and his team of two nurses, two midwives and two community health outreach workers are responsible for the care of more than 12,000 people, including 2,400 children under the age of five.

All of those children receive their two annual doses of immune-boosting vitamin A, along with vaccinations and growth monitoring throughout childhood. Ibra is a strong advocate for exclusive breastfeeding up to at least six months of age and works with his midwives to ensure pregnant women are well taken care of throughout their pregnancy. His dedication goes beyond just his front line work. Ibra is also training the next generation of nurses in Senegal, though an apprenticeship program he helps manage.

Living with his family in accommodations at the health post, Ibra sees himself as truly belonging to the community. People come to him at all times and he says he`ll see them no matter where and no matter when. Sometimes, even when he's playing his Sunday soccer match with his friends. Ibra says the best part of his work is treating a patient and seeing them get better.

Malnutrition in Francophonie Countries

  • Despite remarkable leadership and progress in many places, mothers and children in Francophonie countries, especially in West Africa, experience some of the highest rates of child malnutrition in the world.
  • While being home to nearly 11 percent of the global population, women and children in Francophonie countries account for 25 percent of maternal deaths and 21 percent of child deaths each year.
  • Despite significant global advances in nutrition since 1990, the rates of malnutrition also remain unacceptably high, with 25 million stunted children, and 105 million women and children who are anaemic and severely anaemic. Such malnutrition impacts are limiting health, productivity and futures.

Micronutrient Initiative
The Micronutrient Initiative is an Ottawa-based, international not-for-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that the world's most vulnerable -- especially women and children -- in developing countries get the vitamins and minerals they need to survive and thrive through strong nutrition programs.

Contact Information:

Media Contact:

Micronutrient Initiative 
Aynsley Morris
Manager, Communications
In Senegal: 77 804 9779
Mobile: 613 218 8427

Victoria McMullen
613 782 6808